Plans for a traditional Greek Easter in the ancestral village will have to be dropped for a second consecutive year as the ban on nonessential travel between regions of Greece is unlikely to be lifted by that time.
A number of health experts have warned that lifting the current ban for Easter celebrations will undermine the national effort to contain the spread of Covid-19 ahead of the country’s formal reopening to international tourists on May 14.
Through his statements following a meeting with the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos has cautioned the people that they might hear this unwelcome news as Easter approaches.
However, fewer restrictions will most likely be in force compared to 2020, when Easter liturgies all across Greece were held behind closed doors and in the absence of faithful to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.
62% of Greek residents yearn for Easter back in the village
Traditionally, Greek people travel to family-owned homes in the countryside or on the islands to celebrate the most significant religious event of the Orthodox calendar year.
It is an opportunity to not only herald the arrival of spring, but also to reunite with family and observe significant cultural traditions and religious ceremonies.
According to a national poll conducted by Alco on behalf of the Greek channel Open Beyond TV, at least 6 in 10 residents of Greece believe that the traditional Easter exodus should be allowed.
However, it is believed that the government will only allow travel between municipalities of the same region and gatherings of up to nine persons on Easter Day, in light of the latest safety concerns.
Nikos Tzanakis, a professor of Pneumonology at the University of Crete, opined on SKAI news on Friday, April 16 that “every church at Easter can become the birthplace of many cases.”
The head of the Pulmonology Clinic at Evangelismos Hospital, Dr. George Boulbasakos, told ERT news on Saturday, April 17 that he recommended “not to meet other people who do not belong to your same social bubble.”
Even the Director of the Infectious Diseases Unit in Patras University Hospital, Charalambos Gogos, told interviewers from ERT TV on Sunday that a mass exodus to family homes ought not to be considered this year.
Easter liturgies conform to safety measures
Archbishop Ieronymos confirmed that the procession of the Epitaph on Good Friday will be held only around the church, and with all safety measures in place for any faithful in attendance.
He told local media that a solution had been found during his meeting with PM Mitsotakis — at least for the way in which the Holy Week and Easter liturgies will be carried out.
“We will make an offset so that we do not disturb things with more freedoms but we do not believe that we will be able to go to our villages,” the Archbishop pointed out.
“It is not just that we want to go and they don’t let us, it is also an expression of that some are afraid (of the spread) from the exodus, mainly those on the islands.”
In the meantime, local media report that the time of the Easter Vigil all over Greece could be moved to an earlier time and the Resurrection could be celebrated at 8:00, instead of midnight, in view of the nightly curfew.
The Permanent Holy Synod allegedly suggested that the maximum number of persons in the larger churches during the Easter period be limited to one hundred faithful, or one person per 15 square meters (161 square feet).
It is also alleged to have asked that the churchyards be used to avoid dangerous overcrowding, or even that liturgies could be held outdoors.
Covid-19 infections still surging
The week before Holy Week started with Greece recording 1,607 new cases of Covid-19 infection on Monday and also set a negative record for the highest number of coronavirus patients on ventilators, with 847 people undergoing the invasive treatment.
Seventy-eight patients lost their lives within that same 24-hour period alone.
Since the pandemic broke out in March of 2020, a total of 316,879 cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in the country, including recoveries.
Of the cases diagnosed in Greece in the past seven days, only 59 are associated with foreign travel, while 3,072 have been linked to contact with a known case.